I’m interested in a lot of things that might be considered a bit alternative, and one of my friends recently commented on the fact that I was really open minded. Without thinking, my response was that I’m not open minded, I’m open-mindedly sceptical.
What I meant was that I try to give everything a fair hearing, and look for evidence to validate new ideas, then make up my own mind. It seems that we live in a culture where the majority of people are sceptical by default and believe that new ideas are false, idiocy, quackery and “pie in the sky” unless a large proportion of the mass media starts reporting it as fact. At the other end of the spectrum we have people who believe every new and exciting idea without ever asking whether there is any basis to it. The trouble is that there are a lot of great things that just don’t get coverage in the mass media, and even more things that are simple reported wrong due to a combination of corporate/government interests and sloppy journalism. Whether you believe everything you hear in the media or believe every new alternative idea, you don’t have a reliable basis to make judgements on what will affect the health and happiness of you and those around you. If you want to truly know about the world you live in you need to dig a bit deeper.
So when I hear a new idea about how to make the world a happier, healthier place, I listen carefully and enthusiastically, but not blindly. The role of scepticism to help us weed out ideas that are genuinely false, not to prevent you from considering new, unproven ideas. The key to being open-mindedly sceptical is to experiment. Try things for yourself and talk to others that have tried them. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, then either it is a false idea or you have not understood how to implement it correctly, so further research and experimentation may be required.
As the old saying goes, “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”. If we all kept our minds open but filtered knew ideas with just a healthy dose of scepticism, the world would be a much better place.